Lime and Uber fight over London with rival electric bike schemes
Lime could expand its electric bike hire scheme outside London, the company has said as competition hots up in the growing market in the capital.
The US-based tech startup launched Lime-E, the capital’s first fleet of electric-assisted bikes hired through an app, in 2018 but Uber unveiled its similar Jump scheme last month.
Uber, which has backed Lime and allows customers to book Lime bikes through its app, has now launched its own rival fleet of bikes in Lime’s most popular location, Islington in north London.
Jaanaki Momaya, Lime’s UK general manager, said in an interview with Yahoo Finance UK the firm will announce more London locations “imminently.”
Speaking head of Bike Week 2019 next week, she said the company were focusing on London growth this year but had held talks with authorities beyond the capital about potential future launches elsewhere.
She said poor air quality was “the public health crisis of a generation,” and said the ability to cycle “without breaking a sweat” would encourage drivers to swap their cars for two wheels.
Momaya also called for a ban on riding electric scooters in Britain to be overhauled, with the company saying it was time to modernise “laws from the 1800s” that are allegedly widely flouted.
The company has grown rapidly since launching less than two years ago in the USA, where it began with a normal pedal bike scheme.
It now has more than 1,000 bikes in London after launching in Britain late last year, based in Islington, Brent, Ealing, Croydon and Bromley. It also has bikes in Milton Keynes.
The scheme is dockless, with users not required to return bikes to docking stations and able to find and access the nearest available bikes through the Lime app. The bikes cost £1 to unlock by scanning a QR code and 15p a minute to ride.
The company would not reveal usage figures so far in the UK but said users had completed more than 50 million trips worldwide. It has raised $770m in funding.
“We are trying to make cycling more accessible to people who wouldn’t normally cycle,” said Momaya. “You can cycle for miles without breaking a sweat as it’s electric-assisted.”
“The big issues in London are congestion, air quality and physical activity. Air quality is the public health crisis of a generation. We are completely emission-free; we want to get people out of cars and onto the street.”
Momaya said the launch had been “incredibly positive” so far with the bikes “well-received” everywhere and particularly in Islington but admitted to several challenges facing Lime and similar schemes.
Asked about the risk of bikes being left in far-flung locations, she said: “We manage it by having a hands-on operations team of cargo cyclists on the ground.
“The bikes have to be serviced quite heavily. Each bike is charged between once and three times a week.”
She also acknowledged there were “more and more entrants coming in” to the market after taxi app firm Uber began piloting 350 Jump bikes in Islington in May.
She said of possible expansion: “We are really keen to keep expanding in London. For this year we are focusing on London, but definitely will look further afield in the future.”
Momaya added that she would love to introduce the firm’s scooters to Britain as in the USA, but said: “Unfortunately we require a change in national legislation.”
The firm added in a statement that it was currently illegal to ride e-scooters on roads or pavements, but pointed out it was “common to see private individuals breaking this law with little police enforcement.”
They fear a review of the law by the UK government’s department for transport could take up to three years, but hope Britain will soon “explore modernising laws from the 1800s that are providing a barrier to innovation.”
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